The America's Cup win is the perfect catalyst to execute plans for a $1 billion light rail network from Auckland's waterfront to the airport, a city politician says.
Chris Darby, Auckland Council's planning committee chairman and one of two North Shore councillors, says now is the perfect time to plan to create a legacy from which generations of Aucklanders would benefit.
A light rail transport network would run from the waterfront's Wynyard Quarter through the city centre up to Dominion Rd, through Mangere to the airport and should be ready by 2021 if Auckland stages the defence here, Darby said this morning.
Auckland Transport has plans for the light rail network, saying it would "relieve traffic congestion on busy arterial roads and get more people around Auckland quickly."
Transport Minister Simon Bridges in March announced route protection work would be progressed "with urgency" in order to future-proof bus and light rail options. The proposed route would be along Dominion Rd.
It was not known whether the Government would fully fund the rail project, estimated to cost around $1 billion. Bridges said the network would not be in place for another 30 years.
Darby said now was the time to discuss its funding, with a significant Government contribution needed.
"We shouldn't be fixated with the sporting event," he said, referring to advice he received from a London official after the Olympics provided a catalyst for new infrastructure in that city.
"You need to be ambitious when you win a global event like this. This is the time to be looking at bringing some things forward and look at a strategic public transport network," he said.
"The benefits would be more than just about rail," Darby said of the Auckland project.
"Passengers going to the airport would only be about 5 to 10 per cent of people. It's actually about connecting hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders to mass transit through the city centre, going through Housing New Zealand redevelopment sites in Dominion Rd and Mangere."
Auckland Transport says: "AT studies to date support a solution being required by 2024 and Light Rail Transit [LRT] as the preferred option. LRT will take buses off key corridors and carry more people, more efficiently, between centres.
"LRT-based solutions have also been shown internationally to improve urban outcomes through development opportunity and provide permanent infrastructure, which attracts investment."